When your income is really low, it’s extremely difficult to learn how to save money. Even the best savers can be wiped out by one emergency, which can leave you living paycheck to paycheck. The best way to avoid this is through saving, and in order to get there, you must embrace certain habits.
In any other post, I would encourage those with low incomes to hustle like crazy to make more money. I would outline the ways to perform better at work, impress your boss, ask for raises, take on extra side-hustles, etc.
However, for the purposes of this post, I want to address ways to save money when you’ve hit rock bottom in terms of the amount of income you’re bringing home. This is to help those who really need to squeeze out some extra pennies, who need to save for a rainy day, who might not be able to switch jobs or work extra at this exact moment.
1. Save Money by Giving Up Something You Love
For most people, we have that one thing that we do for ourselves. This is healthy and good. We all need to pamper ourselves a little to keep our sanity. However, if you are in a very desperate situation and need to build an emergency fund to avoid future problems, try giving up something you love.
Whether it’s taking a cold shower because you can’t afford the hot water or walking instead of driving your car, just remember it’s temporary. There’s an end goal in mind.
Giving something up doesn’t always mean sacrifice, especially when it’s cutting something you don’t use. Trim is a free app that analyzes your subscriptions and memberships to find ones you don’t use so you can bank the savings.
2. Finders Keepers
I once saw a couple picking up coins in the mall. They walked around the check out lines in popular stores, snatching up dimes and nickels as they went. I told them they had a unique hobby, and they gleefully told me they recently found a quarter. You would have thought they found a $20 bill they were so excited.
So, maybe you don’t have time to do a four-hour bartending shift to supplement your income right now because you have kids or are in school, but keep your eyes on the ground. You never know what you will find to add to your savings.
Did you know you can do the same thing when grocery shopping? With Ibotta you can earn cash back from items you buy at the grocery store, even if it is a small amount. After you’re done shopping you scan your receipt and Ibotta matches it against cheaper offers and pays you the difference.
Ibotta doesn’t just work at grocery stores, they also work with over 350 vendors. Ibotta connects to your PayPal or Venmo account so you can get paid right away. If you’d rather not scan receipts, you can use the Ibotta app on your phone to locate sales for the store you’re at.
Ibotta gives you a $20 bonus just for signing up!
3. Become a Minimalist
It’s amazing what people will buy. Truly. You might think that your box of old shoes should be destined for the donation pile, but someone just might buy them. You never know until you try. Remember that expensive items like electronics can fetch a high dollar. Can you use the computer at the library until you build up your emergency fund?
Can you use a flip phone instead of a smart phone? I’m not saying it’s going to be easy or fun to build your savings on a low income, but once you can get that safety net in place, you can then slowly build back up your level of comfort. Remember, it’s just temporary until you get where you need to be.
Although I have never lived in poverty, I have suffered the embarrassment and endured the anxiety of living paycheck to paycheck. It wasn’t even that long ago, which just proves that with enough discipline, you can pull yourself out of a bad situation. Making a really low income is never easy when you have a lot of expenses, but if you can focus on what’s really important – building that savings account – you will be so much better prepared to increase your income in the future.
Interest rates are terrible today, but there are high-yield options available, with no minimum balance requirement, which will allow to grow your funds as you put more away.
Additional resource: If you’re in a similar situation but are held back by debt there are options to pay off that debt quicker. The best option is to consolidate outstanding debt to a lower interest rate. The lower your rate the quicker you become debt free and start saving more money. One of the best options to consolidate debt is through Lightstream who offers rates as low as 1.74 percent with AutoPay.
What other ways can you save when you don’t make a lot of money? What little pleasure could you give up temporarily to build up an emergency fund? If you’re making more now, looking back, how did you make ends meet without abandoning your savings?